Okay, so people travelling to Cairo have apparently stumbled on my blog and are asking questions about the housing situation here and where I'm living specifically.
Well, I'm living in Agouza, which is sort of but not really part of the larger Mohandessin, a pretty Westernized (but still, very Egyptian) section of Cairo on the west bank. Technically, I live in Giza, not Cairo. I'm just east of Mohandessin proper (which starts after Gamaat al Dawal al'Arabia) and just north of Doqqi.
As far as the housing situation: what I would say is that it varies. A lot.
First of all, females should have an easier time finding housing; I'd say around 2/3rds of the ads I see for rooms specify "female only" (which is a concern in Egypt, where the locals can get very suspicious of co-ed housing).
Secondly, there is no one price that you should expect to pay. If you want a really nice place, you can pay all the way up to Western prices, easy. I've seen plenty of apartments advertised in Cairo for $500. I myself would steer away from apartments listed in dollars (or, heaven forbid, pounds sterling). You want apartments listed in Egyptian pounds, because $500 "looks" reasonable until you translate it into Egyptian Pounds (Abbreviated £E, "Pounds Egyptian", or, more commonly LE) and it becomes 2850LE. A reasonable range for accommodation--what you're likely to see for a shared room in a flat--is between 1000 and 1500LE. In general, it depends a lot on the number of roommates; 3 and 4 bedrooms are generally cheaper per person than 2 bedroom apartments. I'm currently staying in a 2 bedroom, 25000LE flat and paying a little over half because I get the larger room with the AC. :-) Also, my flatmate's Egyptian and has a family to support, so I don't mind paying a little extra. The summer is the most expensive time to find a flat. If you get a flat before the summer, be careful because the allure of kicking you out and renting your flat out to one of the "Arabs" from the Gulf for several thousands LE may prove to great to resist (the apartments in my neighborhood jumped up to as much as 8000-12000LE per month!). This is what happened to me, and why I was kicked out of my apartment (although I did know it in advance). If you can get a long term lease, though, these prices are generally locked in so don't do what I did and get a lease in the summer -- wait until fall when the market cools down. It's also a waiting game. I keep shaking my head at the announcements I'm seeing now, with some rooms available for under 1000LE. If only I had waited! But I'm glad I found this apt, actually. It's really quite lovely and the views are fantastic (I'll take pictures tomorrow, I swear).
In general, though, most rooms that I have seen for cheap prices reflect that price. I have no issue with slumming a bit, but I'm pretty adamant that my bed look like something I would actually want to lie on, and for my job the lack of a phone line (for DSL) is pretty much a deal breaker, so I was willing to pay a bit more for an apartment that had what I needed (please, those of you in Cairo reading this blog, do not post comments about the lovely room you're living in in Zamelek that is costing you only 750LE. I don't want to hear it).
Also, you'll want a laundry machine in your apartment. I know, this sounds like an unnecessary luxury. I myself would glad to go without it, were it not for this: there are no laundromats in Cairo. None. There are plenty of "cleaners", but unless you relish the thought of paying 1LE for every single sock and piece of underwear you want clean, go for the washing machine option. Besides, operating a washing machine in a developing country is fun and exciting (some people have gotten electrocuted, apparently. So far I have experienced one or two mild shocks but clearly I'm not dead. From now on, I'm turning the machine off during loading and unloading).
Finally, apparently you want to have as much in writing as possible. I've met quite a few people who've had a hard time getting their deposit back from the landlords when they finally leave. The landlords here (three elderly brothers, who look so alike they could almost be twins) seem really nice, and one of them is fluent in Italian so if necessary I suppose I could always chew him out with some choice Italian phrases. :-)
Hope this helps prospective travelers to Egypt.
BTW: If you're thinking of going to Alexandria, apparently the rent there is even cheaper, but NOT in the summer, when every inch of real estate is snapped up by people looking for anywhere even remotely cooler than Cairo. Alexandria is really beautiful but don't be fooled by its African location. It can be quite chilly in winter -- in fact, I was warmer in Naples than I was in Alexandria at the same time of year. I almost didn't bring my coat (I only took it because I was traveling via London) but I'm glad I did.